Facade of Aden’s Psychiatric and Neurological Hospital, October 5, 2023 (South24 Center)

Miserable Conditions in Aden’s Psychiatric and Neurological Hospital


Sat, 21-10-2023 10:45 AM, Aden Time

Due to the lack of government funding and interest, the hospital’s capacity has declined from 500 patients some years ago to less than 100 patients today.

Abdullatif Salmeen (South24)

The eyes of Ali Mohammed reflect unfathomable pain. He suffers from serious mental problems that began more than a decade ago, and have aggravated to a point that he is oblivious of his surroundings. In 2012, Mohammed, who is in his 30s, came from Al-Bayda Governorate, accompanied by his brother-in-law to Aden’s Psychiatric and Neurological Hospital for treatment of his mental illness. This hospital is the only public hospital of its kind in Aden and the surrounding governorates.

Mohammed received treatment for two years. In 2014, he left the hospital after doctors confirmed that his condition had improved and that he could return to normal life. However, the young man later suffered a damaging mental setback due to the lack of post-treatment guidelines to avoid dangerous relapses.

His new psychological crisis hit him at a time when turmoil and civil war were raging in Yemen. As a result, Mohammed was unable to return to the Aden hospital. His family’s poor financial condition coupled with the lack of awareness about the importance of continuing follow-up care also hampered his return to Aden in the following years. This is despite the fact that Aden has become stable after the end of the warwithin it.  Nine years later, after 2014, Mohammed Ali entered Aden's Psychiatric and Neurological Hospital again.
The courtyard of Aden’s Psychiatric and Neurological Hospital, October 5, 2023 (South24 Center)

According to his brother-in-law Ali Salem, who had accompanied him to Aden in 2012, and made the same trip again one month ago, the young man’s mental condition has largely deteriorated. He told ’South24 Center’: “What has made things worse is the sharp deterioration in the hospital’s condition. When we came here 11 years ago, it wasn’t perfect but it was much better than now. Its services have worsened. We spend our money to no avail.”

Miserable conditions

The Director of the hospital, Dr Thabet Qassim Mohsin, admitted to the poor conditions. He told ’South24 Center’ : “The government institutions don’t understand the critical role played by this hospital or the needs of the patients. Moreover, government decisions scarcely focus on mental health and don’t place it among their priorities.”

’South24 Center’ reporter went on a tour around the hospital to discover the depth of the problem. It consists of 100 beds and eight departments for male and female patients. Some of the departments need maintenance and lack furniture and staff. Others need an overhaul. The hospital also has attached departments such as the ’External Clinic‘ and ’Emergency’.

Beds inside a dilapidated patient room in the hospital, October 5, 2023 (South24 Center)

Although the hospital has power generators to compensate for the long power outages, their working is hampered by the recurrent lack of fuel, which makes the patients and staff suffer. To make matters worse, foul odor emanates from some of the rooms due to overcrowding of patients and the lack of air conditioners. Visitors notice the dilapidated condition of the walls and rooms which are in dire need of repair.

Due to the lack of government funding and interest, the hospital’s capacity has declined from 500 patients some years ago to less than 100 patients today. According to the administration and staff, the financial bonuses for doctors, nurses, administrators, and service workers have ceased. These include bonuses paid for working shifts, medical risks, infection, and medication. 

A nurse expressed her feeling of injustice as she hasn’t been paid bonuses, in contrast to her counterparts working in other public hospitals. In a narrow corridor, a staff cleaner said he feels sad because of the tough conditions, and hoped that things would be better soon. 

Bathrooms in the hospital, October 5, 2023 (South24 Center)

The hospital’s Director stressed that the major shortage of equipment and tools has hampered the staff’s care for patients. He added: “The hospital needs a budget of 30 million riyals to improve infrastructure. The Minister of Health hasn’t fulfilled his promise to review matters. Some departments have not been repaired since being damaged in the 2015 War. We still lack essentials such as medical devices, foremost being the one used for blood analysis.”

He indicated that the hospital relies on charitable donations to manage its affairs and activities. He added: “We receive limited financial support. The foreign organizations provide the hospital with irregular support once a year or every two years. We also receive aid from some public and private institutions. We hope to engage in partnerships with businessmen to improve the health and mental care services.”

Dr. Thabet said the lack of funding impacts the availability of food, clean water and medicines which are supposed to be delivered to patients, especially the poor ones, for free. He explained that “the mental clinics here rely on three psychologists and very few researchers. Although they all work very efficiently, the clinics need more specialized staff.”

Food storage in the hospital, October 5, 2023 (South24 Center)

However, Dr. Thabet mentioned some recent achievements such as “Installing surveillance cameras and a fingerprint system for employees, as well as acquiring a brain scanning device”.

The hospital’s media spokesman Abdullah Al-Meshgagi told ’South24 Center’: “The infrastructure here is very poor. I don’t even have a computer and I use my mobile to work. I receive a very low monthly financial allowance. There is no internet or media assistants here. I believe that my work is important for documenting the hospital’s activities and raising people’s awareness about mental health.”

He called for providing all the necessities and tools such as laptops to facilitate work and link them to the hospital’s facilities via the internet.

‘South24 Center’ attempted to visit the women’s departments but weren’t allowed. Inside the male departments, the conditions are bad. Many of the patients suffer from psychological turmoil and are held behind closed doors.  However, some smiles were hovering on their faces when they saw new visitors.

Suffering of patients

The hospital’s patients are the biggest victims of the dire conditions which increase their mental turmoil and kill their chances of recovery. Furthermore, their companions complain about what they describe as “neglect and bad treatment” by doctors and nurses. 

What is worse, according to the administration, is that the hospital is under the threat of complete closure as a result of the government’s neglect.
A medical bed in the hospital, October 5, 2023 (South24 Center)

Our field tour revealed other issues related to the nature of work in the hospital and the risks that can harm the patients due to the dangerous conditions there. This includes allegations about psychologically healthy persons who were forced to enter the hospital for political reasons or family disputes until they later lost their minds. 

To confirm these allegations, we asked the Criminal Investigation Officer, Hassan Youssef, who said: "This happens sometimes, intentionally or due to ignoring the right mechanisms. This leads to these kinds of problems and the lack of social justice.”

He stressed the importance of coordinating with his department before accepting new cases in the hospital to avoid intentional hurt or mistreatment. He added that people in the hospital should be subjected to criminal investigation before permission for admission is granted. This would ensure the safety of patients and workers. Additionally, Youssef criticized the unilateral decisions taken by the hospital’s administration to accept some patients without conducting a criminal investigation.

External courtyard of the hospital, October 5, 2023 (South24 Center)

On World Mental Health Day on October 10, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said that “One out of every four people in Yemen suffer from mental health issues and need responsive services.” These statistics reveal the upsurge in mental problems due to the spread of poverty, hunger, and deprivation among Yemenis, especially amid the ongoing war that erupted more than eight years ago.

Abdullatif Salmeen 
Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

Note: This is a translated version of the original text written in Arabic

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